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14 times to be exact.  No, I didn't cheat.  I didn't find some deceased voters' registration cards.  There wasn't anything illegal about it.  In reality, I cast my one and only ballot at 6:05 this morning, minutes after the polls opened here in Missouri.  The other thirteen votes?  

Follow me after the flip...

Today I was a volunteer driver for our county Democratic Party, logging just over 300 miles helping people get to the polls; people who otherwise could not have voted today.  And every time I helped someone out of the car and into their voting booth, it felt like I was voting again myself.  I didn't ask them how they voted, and I didn't campaign for anyone in particular today... there wasn't any need for that.  

I just got home a little bit ago, and got my young daughter to bed.  I haven't had a chance to look at all the exciting news yet here on the Daily Kos, and have only had a minute to check the TV talking heads to see that we've taken Senate seats in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  Like everyone else, I'm holding my breath for Claire here in Missouri, but we won't know that outcome for many hours yet.  But after today, and seeing thirteen new friends vote, I am full of hope that we will win this thing.

Here are a few of the people I met today.

Meet Lester.  He is probably in his mid-80's, a World War Two veteran and a child of turn of the 20th century German immigrants.  He's desperately poor and lives alone, save for his one and only companion, a tinly little curly white haired dog named Lois who loves him as much as he loves her.  He lives in a very ramshackle little apartment in what passes for the "projects" in this otherwise thriving midwestern college town.  It's the part of town no college kids ever see; it's the part of town most lifelong residents have never even driven through.  Lester's confined to a wheelchair and doesn't -- can't, actually -- get out and about on his own. I don't know how the hell he pulled his 300+ pounds into the van, but he did it, with only a little help from me.  After voting, on the way home, he remarked how it was his first time out of his place in almost a year.  A year!!  When we finally got him back in his chair and wheeled into his tiny, dark living room I asked if there was anything else I could do or get for him before I left.  He said, "Just give me one more of your big smiles."  I did.  And then hugged him, and we both had a tear in our eyes.  As I turned to leave I noticed something shiny in a little open velour box on his TV set.  I stole a closer look.  It was his bronze star from the war.  This man was a war hero.  

Today, Lester became a hero once again.  

Meet Miz Amy.  That's what she said she loves to be called.  She lives in a rent subsidized apartment in a little enclave of what the locals call the "new Section 8" part of town, out on the highway north of the main part of the city.  She's a grandmother and a widow and suffers from diabetes and god knows what else.  I asked her if she was a regular voter and she said, "No, they moved my polling place a couple years ago and I have no way to walk there, but today I gotta' vote me some Claire McCaskill. We just have to change what's going on in our country."

Miz Amy is a heroine today.

Meet the Ferguson ladies.  Mrs. Ferguson and her daughter moved from St. Louis to a little farm community about 20 miles south of the college town two years ago to escape the crackheads and meth dealers that plagued their urban inner city neighborhood.  Now they live in a lovely little duplex in a small subdivision just across the highway from the farm town.  They are two of probably only 10 or so African Americans living in this nearly all-white place, but they love it, even though they are frequent targets of discrimination out there, because it's safe and it's quiet.  Their car isn't running and they had no way to get the half-mile across the busy four lane highway to their polling place.  They've voted in every election since 1960 and, in fact, the elder Ms. Ferguson said she used to be a poll worker at her old precinct in St. Louis, and they weren't going to let a little thing like a busted automobile stop them from voting this time. After voting, while we were in town, I took them by my friend Terry's auto shop and he made arrangements to pick up their car and get it fixed. They both apologized all over the place about my having to drive all that way to help them vote.  I told them it was more than my privilege to do it.. it was an honor.  

The Fergusons are heroines today.

Meet Ms. Carol.  She's what the folks around here used to call a "welfare mom."  Shit, there is no such thing anymore, if there ever was.  Ms. Carol is one of the "beneficiaries" of the new "workfare" programs.  She works the late night shift putting semiconductor chips in digital phone equipment while her sister watches after her three kids.  She rides 14 miles to work with a friend who wouldn't be by to pick her up until 6:30pm which would not have left enough time to vote before the polls closed at 7pm.  I stopped by her place after I picked my own daughter up from school and we got her to her voting place by 5:15, then home in time to fix supper for the kids before she had to go to work.  Ms. Carol had never voted before.   She told my daughter and me that she just couldn't NOT vote this time.  "It's just wrong, the lies our leaders tell us.  We need to vote them out and get some honest people in there who care about all the people, not just the rich ones."

Ms. Carol is a heroine.

Meet Penny.  She has MS and had a stroke a few years ago.  Her speech is slurred, her memory sometimes fails her, and it's hard for her to walk, though she does so even as her doctor tells her she should be in a wheelchair fulltime.  She is so proud of her new house, built just last year as a joint project of Habitat for Humanity and the local Lions Club.  We arrived ten minutes early to pick her up and she was already sitting on her porch waiting for us.  You could see her eyes shining as we drove up the driveway, some forty or fifty feet away.  She needed some help walking into and out of her polling place and her arm shook as I helped her down the curb to the car.  My 9 year old daughter asked if she was okay. Penny looked down at her with those shining eyes and said, "Honey, you and your daddy are helping me take our country back."

Penny is heroine today.

These are just a few of the courageous people who are helping us all win this war to take America back to where she belongs.  Hell, it's easy for me to vote.  I never gave it a second thought before.  But for these folks, it's a battle -- a real sacrifice -- to make such a tremendous effort to vote amongst all the other daunting challenges of mere day to day survival.

These people are the real American heroes.  They are the forgotten among us who make me proud to be their brother citizen.   With their help, I really felt like I voted 14 times today.  

And goddam it, it feels great!

Late Night/Early Morning Update: I never imagined when I got home this evening and jotted down this little diary that it would touch so many people. Thank you all, but I am no hero. I was just lucky. Lucky to have the day to spend meeting people like Lester and Miz Amy and the Fergusons and Ms. Carol and Penny, and luckier still that they invited me to be a part of their day. And it is their day even as much or more than it's ours. This little story is dedicated to ALL of the millions of people of the netroots and the grassroots who worked so hard for so long to bring us this wonderful day. Every one of you. Every one of us!

Damn, I hope I can stay up long enough to see Montana go officially to Tester!

Originally posted to Eddie Haskell on Tue Nov 07, 2006 at 08:14 PM PST.

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